Portsmouth move step closer to Wembley return with EFL Trophy victory at Walsall
Pompey continued their defence of the EFL Trophy as they grabbed a 2-1 win at Walsall tonight.
Goals from John Marquis and sub Ellis Harrison did the damage before Blues old boy Caolan Lavery grabbed a late penalty for the Saddlers.
Craig MacGillivray also saved a first-half spot-kick from Elijah Adebayo as Kenny Jackett’s men moved into the last eight of the competition at the Bescot Stadium.
It was a largely comfortable victory for the Blues as they rang the changes as their busy run of fixtures continued.
The first challenge of the night was to fathom how Pompey’s side were going to line up after Jackett made seven switches from the side who picked up the 2-0 FA Cup win at Fleetwood on Saturday.
It was soon clear the Blues boss had opted to use Christian Burgess at right-back with Oli Hawkins leading the line in front of John Marquis.
Marquis had the first sight of goal as he dragged his 20 yarder wide in the fourth minute before striker Elijah Adebayo headed Cameron Norman’s cross at Craig MacGillivray.
Adebayo was again the target for Cameron Pring’s cross in the 16th minute but couldn’t head his effort on target, a couple of minutes after Marquis’ angled drive was put behind for a corner.
The summer arrival from Doncaster had the clearest sight of goal in the 23rd minute when he was played in through the middle by Oli Hawkins but saw his shot saved by Liam Roberts.
Marquis wasn’t to be denied, though, and made the breakthrough seconds later as he applied the final touch from close range after Burgess headed Gareth Evans’ corner goalwards.
Hawkins than fired over in the 30th minute when Marquis turned provider with a knockdown following a fine Evans cross from the right.
Debut-making Reeco Hackett-Fairchild went down hurt 11 minutes before the break and despite the signal going up to make a substitution decided to continue.
The home side had the chance to level from the spot in first-half stoppage time as Sean Raggett was adjudged to have fouled Rory Gaffney perhaps a tad harshly, but MacGillivray came to the rescue with a full-length save to his right. And then James Clarke’s header was cleared off the line from the resulting corner in a frenetic end to the half.
The frenetic end-of-half action dissipated after the restart, but Pompey old boy Caolan Lavery was introduced for the home side in the 56th minute and whistled a shot not too far wide from 20 yards within minutes of coming on.
Sub Steve Seddon again showed his crossing quality in the 68th minute but Hawkins couldn’t direct his volley past keeper Liam Roberts, before Burgess headed Evans’ corner over three minutes later.
Lavery then blazed a shot over when well placed in the box as he continued to look lively after his introduction.
Marquis was denied a second nine minutes from time from a tight angle with Seddon smashing the follow up not too far wide.
But then the young loanee produced a peach of cross for sub Harrison to head home from six yards.
Walsall had a late lifeline as Downing was penalised for a foul on Rory Holden and Lavery sent MacGillivray the wrong way from the spot.
And Pompey then had to negotiate five minutes of stoppage time to book their place in the quarter-finals, but done so without any late, late drama.
Walsall: Roberts, Norman, Pring, Clarke, Scarr*, Kinsella, Adebayo***, Holden, Gaffney**, Perry (booked), Jules. Subs: Rose, Roberts, Bates, Foulkes, McDonald* (56min), Willis** (73min), Lavery** (56min)
Pompey: MacGillivray, Burgess, Raggett, Downing, Mnoga* , Evans, Close, Hackett-Fairchild** (booked), Harness Marquis, Hawkins***. Subs: Bass, Casey, Seddon* (63min), Naylor** (63min), Bolton, Cannon, Harrison (71min).